Creating a sense of community while learning from home

Victorian principals and their school leadership teams have shown their value as leaders of their schools and their communities during the two periods of remote and flexible learning.

School leaders throughout the state have reported that the lessons learned during Term 2 proved invaluable when schools returned to home learning in Term 3.

The key has been drawing upon resources and staff expertise to plan lessons collaboratively and build strong relationships with parents and carers.

Ainslie-Parklands Primary School principal, Brett Mackenzie, says Term 2 felt a little like 'bootcamp', but prepared all staff well for Term 3.

A critical part of the school's success was its participation in the Differentiated Support for School Improvement (DSSI) initiative which helps build teacher and leadership capability.

'Collaborative planning is happening consistently, with student improvement at the centre of all discussions and decisions. This process has been significantly supported by DSSI,' Brett says.

Relationships and connections with families are also of paramount importance.

'The sense of community we have had with families is a testament to the commitment of our staff. Getting the learning into homes has gone a long way to improving the partnership.  This has been a real positive,' Brett says.

Seymour College principal, Gail Hardman, agrees good communication with parents and carers is vital while students are learning from home.

'We have had more communication with families now than ever before. The challenge will be how we can continue this lovely relationship that has been developed once remote and flexible learning is over,' Gail says.

The College has supported VCE students while learning from home through regular check-ins by welfare staff and year level coordinators, surveys via Compass and daily follow-up with students via Webex, emails and phone calls.

Some students are also receiving free, online tutoring support as part of a pilot program run by Monash University and not-for-profit organisation Regional Education Support Network (RESN).

Woori Yallock Primary School principal, Oliver Thockloth, describes the school as the hub of the community.

'The restrictions and remote learning caused a lot of angst among our parents. Making them feel comfortable and letting them know that we were still there for them, even if their kids weren't on site, was really important,' he says.

'Communication was key – we used Compass notifications and the school newsletter, but we quickly realised that Facebook and word of mouth had the most impact.'

Teachers, school leaders, parents and students can access learning from home advice and resources on the Learning from Home website.